Saturday, June 27, 1998

Grave visitors discover missing sheriff, friend 

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) --

A Mississippi sheriff overpowered by two inmates spent the night
handcuffed in a rundown barn before his cries for help were heard
Friday by a couple in a nearby cemetery.

Jones County Sheriff Maurice Hooks and retired officer Ray Butler 
had been missing since Thursday when they were transporting two 
inmates from the state prison to Laurel.

A search continues for the inmates in Alabama, where the abandoned
sheriff's department car was found. The inmates allegedly shot a 
lawman there who tried to stop them.

Hooks and Butler were hospitalized with minor injuries and expected
to be released over the weekend.

"It's a blessing they didn't get killed," said Levertis Braddy Jr., 
retired teacher who was visiting his parents' graves south of 
Florence when he heard Hooks' screams for help.

He said the two had been handcuffed and gagged, but Hooks had 
managed to work his mouth free to cry out. The two were in a 
dilapidated barn off a dirt road about 20 miles south of Jackson.

"I guess it was the Lord's will that I be there," said Braddy, 
who decided that morning to take his wife to the cemetery.

The sheriff had an abrasion on his forehead and Butler, who is
diabetic, had not had his insulin.

Authorities did not say how they were overpowered.

Meanwhile in Alabama, the search for inmates Mario Centobie, 32, 
and Jeremy Granberry, 19, centered in a wide area south of 
Tuscaloosa, where the stolen patrol car was found Thursday night.

Tuscaloosa police Capt. Cecil Lancaster was shot after stopping
the stolen vehicle on Interstate 359. He was listed in fair
condition after surgery.

Centobie was serving a 40-year sentence for burglary, kidnapping
and aggravated assault, said Ken Jones, spokesman for the 
Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Jones said Granberry was serving a six-year sentence for the
escape and burglary. He was one of two trustees who escaped 
from the prison briefly in October.

In Laurel, news that the sheriff and retired officer had been 
found brought cheers from residents who had braced for the worst.

Ribbons made of yellow crime tape were put on trees around town hall.

Karen Garick, a gift shop owner, said she was not surprised the 
sheriff had been tied up and left in the country.

"If you know Maurice, he's as mean as a yellow-yard dog so they had 
to do something with him," Garick said.

Copyright 1998 Hannibal Courier-Post